Friday, December 30, 2005

Gazing on His beauty forever!!!!

With all the talk about the church, Christmas and even the extremes of offering the opportunity to win a house to get people to come to church I thought I would go back to some things John Piper mentioned in his new book: God is the Gospel.

He proposes that the best and final gift of God’s love is the enjoyment of God’s beauty. This comes from Psalm 27:4 where the psalm reflects on the how David saw that the greatest gift God gave was the ability for David to be with God forever and gaze on His beauty. This a long shot from what is offered every Sunday in so many churches, thankfully not all. We offer freedom from pain, addiction and many other things. All of these may be true but can not be guaranteed. Why do we not focus on the one thing that is guaranteed and that is those who are followers of Christ will be able to gaze on the beauty of the Lord forever. My guess is that all too many churches see this as boring and not exciting enough to draw people.

There is the crux of the problem: First is that it is not us that draw people to God, but God Himself who does so, as the natural inclination of the unregenerate man is to run as far from God as possible. Secondly, is that the actions of so many reveal a shallow understanding of the beauty of God. We are so enamored with the temporal excitement of this world that we think that it is necessarily so in heaven. The church is today all too much enamored with itself rather than God and it is not always in the words said but is seen all too often in the actions of the church and its people.

One question asked in the book is: Do you feel more loved because God makes much of me or because, at the cost of His Son, He enables me to enjoy making much of Him forever. How you answer this says much about where God is truly placed in ones life. It is not just how we answer this verbally but also how we answer it in actions. When church is focused more on us and not God we say that we are central.

I will write more on this in the upcoming months as this has been weighing on me because it truly seems that to take the path of making much of God over much being made of us puts one on the wrong side of the pragmatic ways of the day.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Anything for the Gospel. Anything?

How far should we go to get people to come to church? Well I was led to an article that reveals that Abundant Life Christian Center in Texas feels giving a house away is not too far. What does one do to keep them there, pay utilities if they accept the Lord?

How one brings people to church is in general how one keeps them. It is little wonder that the church today is worldly and looks so much like the world that people actually have to be enticed to come. When one neglects the fact that God changes hearts and is the one that sovereignty does so that one has to rely on some sort of gimmick to bring people to church

It is my opinion that it is only a return to the true understanding of how God works that will bring revival in the church. When we neglect that central to the Gospel is God’s giving of Himself that the church will feel that something else needs to be given or promised, maybe even a house.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

"God Loves You" and Evangelism

I came across an article by Gregg Koukl at that asked the question with regards to using “God Loves You” in evangelism. It is interesting that no matter how the so called successful preachers today avoid the topic of sin so as not to upset people, in Acts the subject of sin is emphasized. None of this is to say that God does not love those He died for as we know this is true. What this article points out is that the concept of stressing God’s love for the one we are sharing with is not predominant in the scriptures.

Can we truly say: “God Loves You and has a wonderful plan for your life” and know that for certain? Even if the person is a Christian we can not guarantee a wonderful life from a worldly perspective. The only thing we can promise is that if one becomes a believer they will have a relationship with God through Christ. All of the other benefits are just that, benefits, but can not necessarily be promised and should not be the sole focus of the Gospel we preach. The truth is that making one cognizant of sin does truly show love since it is the conviction of sin and repentance that brings one to Christ and salvation from the penalty of sin.

Just some thoughts to keep in mind when sharing your faith, or better yet when sharing what scripture says about faith and salvation.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Even more on "Incarnation Day" (Christmas)

As I read the various views on those churches that are not open on Christmas I am continually amazed at the arguments raised on both sides. All too often on the side of keeping open is a sort of tradition/legalism view. On the other pole is what might be called the pragmatism view.

Now I say legalism not because the people see it this way but the argument seems to head in that direction. Why is the church to be open on Christmas, because it is supposed to be seems to be the answer. On the pragmatism end it appears to be a matter of dollars and cents as it does not seem worth it to them to hold church if not enough people show up, especially if non-believers do not show up.

I have said this before but what is missed is for people to see what the church is for. If one sees it as a place for unbelievers then I guess not being open would seem reasonable to some. But do these people put a ice tag on salvation. What if one person shows up at one of these churches with closed doors. Is their salvation not of infinite worth and thus worth being open? I would think that their people would say this but their actions do not. I do not see the church as a God designed place for non-believers, however. They can come but the goal is edification of the saints and worship of God which a non-believer is not capable of doing (Rom 14:23). This also has infinite worth and thus also would lead to not closing our doors.

This is also a result of the ever increasing goal of many to make church convenient. The problem is the early church was not convenient and no where does it say Christianity is convenient. When we make things easy and take away any cross to carry people will be less likely to take up a cross when it placed before them. How about that, coming to church is now equated to picking up your cross. Is church such a burden that we have to make sure that it is convenient. I have talked to a person who goes to a large (“Mega”) church in my area and was once told that he goes to Friday or Saturday services in case something came up that weekend. That could have covered a large amount of things but how often do those who go to say a Saturday night service do it so that they can sleep in Sunday and still get in their duty. I have often given those that say that it is not stated what day is to be set aside the benefit of the doubt and say no problem which “DAY” do you set aside. The issue is that time with God has become a burden and time with other believers even more so.

Well enough ranting I just think that the church has lost it moorings and is driven by a wrong view of itself that sees evangelism and unbelievers coming in the door as prime. I would love to see unbelievers come in the door of my church but my focus can not be that or that will be all I cater to, when it comes to church. The call is to discipleship not converts so we need to be about making disciples and not just on one night or day a week.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

More on Christmas

Tom Ascol writes more on Chritmas, Christmas Irony, and I truly think we need to take his words to heart as we celebrate the birth of our Savior. I agree that too often Christmas seems to be an excuse to make up for all of ones neglect of God the rest of the year. Sort of like a trip to the confessional to clean ones slate. However the only one this fools is ourselves as God is not fooled by it all.

I think if one is serious about Christmas maybe the boycott should be that we do not wish to see the word "Christmas" next to any thing remotely material. So instead of being upset at Christmas being absent from advertising we should be upset at it being in the advertising.

In all of this I too do celebrate the birth of our Lord but also see the ever increasing lack of any true ties to the incarnation in most peoples celebrations this time of year.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Christmas and Christians

What to make of Christmas with all of its marketing and focus on consumerism. At a time of year when people are consumed with consumption do we truly want the Christian idea of Christmas intermingled with the world’s pagan notions of Santa Clause and 8 tiny reindeer?

I have been reading Tom Ascol’s blog (1 , 2) in relation to the AFA articles on boycotting stores that are planning, or have already, taken the word Christmas out of their advertising, here are two articles I found on their site (1, 2). I think his views are very well worth contemplating as if one was to really think about it do you want the Christian idea of Christmas placed side-by-side with a Victoria Secret advertisement? Do we all too quickly jump on the boycott wagon when we can only change actions not hearts, since God can only do that.

I was wondering how much the world, at least the US, would change if Christians took Christmas for what it was. Would we stall the economy by not indulging in consumerism? But the other thing is we may find that the number of Christians, those with hearts changed by God, is a much smaller number and not so much would be changed. Either way we as believers need to put forth a different picture of why we celebrate Christmas.

Ascol had some excerpts from sermons by Charles Spurgeon on Christmas and I think they are good to read and ponder as we enter this time of season.

I am not myself boycotting Christmas but I am trying my best to boycott the worlds view of it.

Grace and Peace,